You don't need to be reminded that I coach the John Marshall Speech team, but what you might not know is that this year we are working with an Activities Director who is not housed at JM. This past fall, JM's then AD resigned--leaving JM with an interim AD: Brendan, a former JM Physical Education teacher who has been at John Marshall for over a decade. Brendan is fantastic; however, sadly, he does all the work but has zero power. He manages events, coordinates games, and shuffles paperwork, but all decisions about contracts and cash are done through Mark Kuisle over at Century. This has been a challenge.
Mark works at a building with a Speech team that has had five coaches in six years. Currently, they have the largest team they have had in over a decade: 9 students. Contrast that with John Marshall where Sandy Nieland and I have been coaching together for 16 years and we have built our program to be strong and competitive. This year we are bit small for John Marshall: 65 students. Century's team has never won a tournament, and often opts out of competing at Sections thereby not even attempting to qualify students to compete at State. JM's team wins the occasional invitational, has won our Big 9 conference meet for the last three years (the only Rochester to team to have ever won Big 9 in its history), and we have taken students to State every year since I have been coaching. So, obviously, there are going to be differences between what we need and what Century needs. They can take a school van, which costs the team nothing--we can't even comfortably fit the entire team on one bus. With a $6 entry fee per student, they can compete at tournaments for under $60--we are lucky if our entry fees are under $350. With a small team, typically there is no need to train and/or bring officials--but with a large team, we are expected to have 8 trained officials with us each week (and we pay $75 for each one out our budget). These financial discrepancies means that Century rarely, if ever, needs to fundraise, whereas our JM students are constantly working to raise funds. Nonetheless, Mark insists that he needs to treat the teams fairly, which to him means equally. We have the same budget, coaches get paid the same, and so forth. Which is why, despite our starting the request process in November, just today we finally received word that we can pay our third coach (who has been volunteering all season thus far) a salary that has always existed in the contract. We finally received this blessing after exhaustive meetings with Brendan, with Mark, with JM's principal, with ADs in other districts, and with our Assistant Superintendent. So, why the push back? Well, no other Speech team in the district needs a third coach...
This exemplifies one of my biggest frustrations that I run into often here at RPS (and my guess is that this is often true in other larger districts): our insistence to treat each building the same under the guise of equality. To me, this seems ridiculous. The student populations in each building are not the same. The teachers in these buildings are not the same. Therefore, different needs exist at different buildings. Students gravitate toward different courses and extra-curriculars. Teachers need different staff development opportunities. Yet, we toss the same rules, expectations, trainings, and boundaries at each building. Having sat at the negotiations table, I think I understand the 'logic' behind it--being the same is easier, it has fewer areas of grey. Budgeting is easier if it's the same. Staffing is easier if it's the same. Monitoring success is easier if it's the same. But let me ask you this: is easier best for kids? Nope, at least not in most situations. We ask our teachers to differentiate for our students, so why can't the district differentiate for each building's needs?
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Sounds like MK needs equity training. Is he signed up for the seminars?
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